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Bridging the French and English languages with Cotgrave's dictionary

This week is the Semaine de la francophonie. To mark it, RFI language services have focused on bilingual French dictionaries in their given languages and looked at how those dictionaries evolved. The English service took a look at Randle Cotgrave, an English lexicographer who lived during the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

His dictionary, Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, was published in 1611 and was one of the first of its kind.

In it, he aimed to provide translations and explanations of French words into English and vice versa.

It is also regarded as one of the earliest attempts to systematically compile and organise vocabulary from both languages, making it an important resource for scholars and linguists studying the English and French languages of the period.

As part of the Semaine de la Francophonie, we have taken a deeper dive into the dictionary and its history.

To do this, we talked to Susan Baddeley, Professor of English Language and Civilization at the University of Versailles Saint Quentin.

As a historian of the English Language she wrote an introduction to Cotgrave's dictionary in 2011.

She explained that Cotgrave's dictionary aimed to provide translations and explanations of words in both French and English.

It was notable, she says, for its comprehensive coverage of French vocabulary, including idiomatic expressions, phrases, technical terms and even recipes.

The dictionary was also structured alphabetically with French words followed by their English equivalents and explanations.


Read more on RFI English

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